Top critical review
61 people found this helpful
Great Blackberry, crippled only by T-mobile
on October 27, 2007
This review is for the Blackberry 8320 Curve by T-Mobile. A device is only as good as its service provider - in this case unfortunately T-mobile is a poor one. I received this BB only a few days ago with much excitement. It permits you to pull corporate mail, connect to a wi-fi router to make VOIP based calls and other great features - too many to list.
I had chosen the $19.99 Blackberry Internet Service plan for 10 ISP based emails (POP3/IMAP), Internet browsing (though mainly WAP, not true HTML - BB's proxy servers strip out rich content) and Instant Messaging clients (AIM, Yahoo, Gtalk, ICQ, Windows Live messenger). Though you need to spring another $10 to pull corporate mail from your company's BES server, you still can pull work mail if your company permits browser based email access. By this I mean Outlook Web Access (i.e. https://mail.yourcompany.com/exchange). The extra $10 does buy you instant 'push' email, whereas OWA access does have a 10-15 minute delay. If you can live with this small setback, then you should be fine with the $19.99 BIS plan.
Once I received my BB 8320, I realized that reception was very poor inside my house (1-2 bars, fluctuating quite a bit as well). The purpose of T-mobile providing three types of UMA (unlicensed mobile access) based phones to subscribers is that they know their network has poor performance, especially inside buildings. Signing up for their $19.99 Hotspot@home service allows you to connect to your home router (provided by T-mobile) and any of their 8000 Hotspot locations in Starbucks nation wide. I myself did not sign up for the Hotspot@home service, but just connected to my own home wi-fi router. This seemed to work well, but was intermittent and in the end unreliable. I noticed that connecting to my home wi-fi router caused alot of connection failures for my laptops and desktops. The phone is smart enough to figure out when to switch out of GSM/GPRS and onto wi-fi where available.
My main gripe with T-mobile is that their network does not have good coverage within buildings. Not all buildings that I happen to be in a given day have open wifi access points - this unfortunately makes the UMA feature unusable. The fact that T-mobile's network is solely on the 1900mhz GSM spectrum, and not also 850mhz is likely the reason why building penetration is poor. On a few occasions where I had full bars, I was unable to make an outgoing call up until my 3rd attempt. Also, while standing in line at Potbelly's where I had full bars - I was unable to make an outgoing call to a friend's cell phone (got the 'circuits busy' message). As a paying wireless subscriber, I feel that my $70/mth plan should amount to some sort of guarantee that I will be able to place a call when needed.
On the positive side, I did have good coverage in most of the DC metropolitan area including my Washington, D.C. office. Even though their signal seems strong in a good amount of areas, not having a reliable signal at home really does drive one crazy. I really like the phone itself. It is very light and easy to use - OS performance is quick and reactive. Keyboard feedback is also very good, didn't take me too long to adjust from a regular phone to typing on this BB. As mentioned earlier there is a multitude of applications already installed and further on there are alot of 3rd party applications that are available online for free. The speaker phone was very clear and audible. Having the myFaves deal is great if you speak to specific friends/loved ones alot - keep in mind that you are limited to 5 people and that you can update these numbers only once every billing cycle. Setup of email was quick and painless, everything gets pushed immediately except for my corporate email (as mentioned above).
In the end I feel that my 3 star rating for this product is justified due to the fact that the BB device is great, but falls short of strong performance due to its marriage to T-mobile. I used to have a T-mobile Sidekick (only data, no voice plan) 4 years ago and it was plagued by poor reception at my college. Thought maybe 4 long years was enough for T-mobile to get their act together....should have known better.